The cold, calculating, stone-faced image Bud Grant cultivated during 18 years as coach of the Minnesota Vikings dissolved Saturday as he choked back tears during his enshrinement into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Inducted along with Grant during a frequently emotional ceremony that lasted more than two hours were Dallas running back Tony Dorsett, San Francisco cornerback Jimmy Johnson, Cleveland running back Leroy Kelly, St. Louis and Dallas tight end Jackie Smith and Dallas defensive tackle Randy White.
None of the acceptance speeches were more poignant than Grant’s. Many in the audience had to wipe away tears as he credited his father with inspiring him to make it in professional sports.
“When I was born, my name was Harry,” Grant said. “I was a Junior. Well, you can’t have two Harrys in the same house, so my mom nicknamed me Buddy Boy and dad called me Kid. Buddy Boy got shortened. Maybe if I was a boxer, I would have been Kid Grant.
“You can’t imagine what an honor this is. If Mom was here--she’s 93 and couldn’t make it--I’d look at the pride in her face. If Dad was here, he’d stand up and say, ‘The kid made it. He finally made it.’ ”
In 18 years with the Vikings from 1967 to 1985, Grant went 158-96-5, leading his team to the Super Bowl four times--all losses. But he noted that he left the game on his own, never getting fired from his job.
“If you’re going to succeed--survive is maybe a better word--you’ve got to handle losing,” he said. “You die every time you lose, but you’ve got to get over it.”
Kelly’s induction came 18 years after he was first eligible, perhaps because his accomplishments with the Browns always seemed overshadowed by those of his predecessor, Hall of Famer Jim Brown. The seniors committee acted to put Kelly in the Hall this year.
When Brown abruptly retired in 1966 to pursue an acting career, Kelly stepped in, and Cleveland’s offense scarcely missed a beat. He led the NFL in rushing in 1967 and ’68 and scored 90 touchdowns in his 10-year career.
White and Dorsett were teammates during some of the best seasons of Tom Landry’s Cowboys in the 1970s and ‘80s. Although both were highly publicized athletes in college, neither was a sure thing in the professional ranks--Dorsett because of his size, White because the Cowboys initially played him out of position at linebacker.
Landry presented Dorsett for induction.
“Everybody said I’d be too small to play pro football at 188 pounds,” said Dorsett, who as a youngster once loaded his pockets with rocks in an unsuccessful attempt to boost his weight above the minimum required to play football.
“I never dreamed I’d play 12 seasons. The man in the hat, Coach Landry, brought me along. He taught me discipline. He taught me to set goals. These are things you take with you in life.”